Early Explorers in Egypt and Nubia

This blog is intended
both as an instrument for researchers on early explorers in Egypt and Nubia, providing useful tools in the On-line Resources section (On-line books, Archives, Map Collections, Photo Collections, etc.), and as a place to publish original documentation and research on the subject (i.e. List of travellers, Accounts, Letters, etc.). Anyone who would like to contribute with suggestions or articles is warmly welcomed!

Sunday 5 January 2014

Siwa, Two-Hundred Years Later (1820-2014)

In 1820 Drovetti set off to Siwa following the army sent by Mehmed 'Ali, Pasha of Egypt, to conquer the Oasis. He was accompanied by Louis Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds, Alessandro Ricci and Domenico Frediani. Linant and Ricci devoted themselves to epigraphy (Ricci) and landscape drawing (Linant); they handed over their drawings to Drovetti (although some high-quality copies were made and then given to William John Bankes, a patron to both Ricci and Linant, and are now at the Dorset History Centre, DHC). Drovetti gave the drawings to Jomard, who published them in 1823, with a map and a commentary. Nearly two-hundred years later, what they saw and recorded is almost completely gone.

1. Aghurmi, which is now believed to host the real temple of the oracle, was at the time an inhabited village. Villagers did not show Drovetti and his men the hidden temple and the drawing taken by Linant shows the mosque and the well, the platform beside the palace, but no trace of the temple (which lies to the left), as he was not aware of its existence. This is Jomard 1823, Pl. IX.1; the corresponding copy at the DHC is XIX.B.2:

And this is how it looks now:

2. Temple of 'Umm Beida. At the time it was believed to be the temple of the oracle. It suffered massive losses in the last two-hundred years. This is a depiction in Jomard 1823, Pl. XIII (DHC XIX.B.9); the temple is taken from the North-West:

And here how it looks now:

Another view from the South in Jomard 1823, Pl. XII (DHC XIX.B.8):

And a similar view in Minutoli 1824, Pl. VII:

This is how it looks now:

The East wall and blocks from the ceiling is all what is left. Here is the wall as in Jomard 1823, Pl. XV (DHC XIX.A.5-6; same in Minutoli 1824, Pl. VIII):

And here it is how it looks now (it is impossible to take an orthogonal photo since the blocks of the collapsed ceiling occupy the area):

This is the ceiling in Jomard 1823, Pl. XVII.2 (DHC XIX.A.8):

And how they look now:

3. Qasr al-Gashsham (al-Quraishat): the Roman village has recently disclosed many houses and oil presses. In 1820 the only visible thing was a stone temple, here in Jomard 1823, Pl. VIII:

And how it looks now:

4. To the West, one of the main attraction was Balad al-Rum, with the so-called "Doric temple". Until the 2nd half of the 19th century it used to be the best preserved monument of Siwa. Here as in Jomard 1823, Pl. XIX (DHC XIX.B.7):

And a similar view in Minutoli 1824, Pl. III:

And this is how it looks now, even after extensive work done by Liana Souvaltzi in the 1990s (in fact, the best preserved part is the one unearthed by the Greek archaeologist, i.e. the front part of the long building; the drawing published by Jomard and Minutoli shows the rear part, now completely destroyed):

5. Khamissa is a small village to the south of Balad al-Rum, also on the west side of the Birket Siwa. Drovetti's men recorded a stone-built structure, here in Jomard 1823, Pl. XX.1 (DHC XIX.B.3):

Now it is very difficult to recognize it since completely swallowed by the houses:

6. Shali Fortress (Old Siwa). There are two different views of it from the 1820s; this one is to be found in Jomard 1823, Pl. X (view from the South):

This is in Minutoli 1824, Pl. V (view from the North-East, despite Minutoli labelling it as a view from the East):

 And this is how it looks now (a view form the East):

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, and other entries on Siwa oasis. Several years ago I posted a blog on Siwa and my own visits to the oasis several decades ago -

    The Sweet Dates and Bitter Olives of Siwa Oasis (Libyan Desert)